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Gear Reviews

Revisiting the WD My Passport Wireless

By Anthony Thurston on May 28th 2015

Back in September, we released our full review of Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless, an external hard drive which we felt had great potential for data backups in the field, with somewhat disappointing performance.

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Now, going on 8 months later, having used the drive considerably since that initial review, I wanted to revisit the drive. Does it live up to its potential, and has performance improved at all from a firmware update? That is what I wanted to share with you all today.

WD My Passport Wireless 1TB – 8 Months Later

If I am being honest, I probably would not have any reason to revisit this drive had I not recently discovered the firmware update. I have been using the drive for the last 8 months, and it has worked well, but I always wished I could get better performance. The 23 minute – or often much longer – transfer time left a lot to be desired.

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I recently found myself lamenting over how long it was taking to transfer some video files off the card onto the drive – which DOES take longer than photos – that I remembered the drive has a built in firmware update feature. So I checked the WD website, and sure enough, there was a firmware update that addressed a number of issues, but the main item I was happy to see was that they updated the SD transfer algorithm to increase transfer speeds.

I didn’t wait at all. I had to install this update and check on the performance improvement. In all, the firmware update process was simple enough, just access the drive via its web interface, navigate to the firmware tab and ‘check for updates’. About 5 minutes later, my drive rebooted and the new firmware was installed. Now it was time to see if the performance had improved in any significant way.

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I loaded up my 16GB Sandisk Extreme SD card with a bunch of image files, full to the brim (only about 25MB of free space left) and loaded it into the SD slot bay and started the timer on my iPhone. About 17 minutes and 31 seconds later, the light stopped blinking, and the transfer was complete.

17 minutes is a pretty nice improvement over 23 minutes and is much closer to the 15 minutes or so that it takes to transfer on my internal SD reader (USB 2.0 controlled) on my computer. But one test wasn’t enough to convince me, so I formatted the card, and loaded it up again with a mix of images and video, and started the process again.

18 minutes 21 seconds. Color me impressed.

WD was able to shave a full 5-6 minutes off the transfer time from my completely full 16GB SD card. That may not seem like much, but that is a pretty significant performance bump. I also rarely ever fill my cards at a boudoir shoot, so actual real life transfer time for me after a shoot will be much quicker.

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The studio I use regularly is about a 20-minute drive from my home. So when my shoot concludes, I stick my SD card in the drive and by the time I get home, the card will easily be done transferring. That is all I can really ask for and makes me loads happier overall with the My Passport Wireless.

The annoying part is that the firmware update actually came out many months ago. I just had no idea, so I had been using the drive this whole time with subpar performance when I didn’t have to be.

Regardless, this new firmware update for the My Passport Wireless makes this drive so much more functional and improves performance in a noticeable way – not just in SD transfer speeds. I already called it a ‘Must Have’ in my initial review, and this firmware update simply reaffirms that while addressing the few issues that I had found with the drive.

If you are interested you can get your hands on the WD My Passport Wireless now over on B&H for $179 in the 1TB variety, or just a few dollars more at $199 for the 2TB variant. You can find my full review of the drive here.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Gustavo Urena

    I think this product is a good consumer item but not for pros. I mean it doesn’t even take a CF cards.

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  2. Timothy Linn

    Wish Samsung would address this market niche with a version of their tiny T-1 external SSD + card reader & battery. Everything should be orders of magnitude faster and the battery life much better as well.

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  3. Dragoș Ardeleanu

    I looked for this hard drive on Amazon (Germany). Though it looks like a really cool and useful thing to have, everybody complains about the file transfer speed, even after the software update.
    Ok, copying files from SD card to the drive got faster, but using the drive to transfer files to a computer, that’s where the problem (still) is.
    Other than that, I just love that there are also 2TB and 4TB variants.

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    • Paul Hennell

      I was just thinking this could speed up the PC import times as SD card > Drive as I travel home, then Drive to PC (via USB3) would be quicker than SD > PC (USB2).

      Is this not the case?

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    • Matthew Saville

      Paul,

      It depends on which connections you have, and how fast your memory cards are.

      For example I think most of my cards are 85-95 MB/s transfer speed, (Read, though not necessarily Write) …and I have USB 3.0 and/or a direct in-board SD card slot on my Laptop. So, based on Anthony’s time trials, it sounds like going straight from the SD card to the computer could be faster. Then again, it depends on the connection and RPM of the external drive. So yeah, it’s complicated lol…

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    • Phil Bautista

      Published transfer speeds:
      USB 3.0 up to 5 Gb/s
      USB 2.0 up to 480 Mb/s
      SD 2.0 up to 25 MB/s

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  4. Chris Jones

    Glad you posted this update, I’ve been really eyeing this, have you taken this on any travels? I’m going to vegas in july and I’m thinking about getting this to take with me so I don’t need to take my tablet.

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  5. Matthew Saville

    Anthony, I’d be curious to know what speed SD card is being used, what its real-world Read speed is rated at, and how closely that matches the speed of these transfers. Using USB 3.0 and a 16 GB 95 MB/s card, my transfer time to a computer is about 5 mins or so.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Matt, this particular Sandisk card is one of their 45MB/s variants, so its not the fastest by any means.

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    • Phil Bautista

      Based on B&H specs, transfer speeds from SD cards are around 25 mbps so your card speed won’t be the bottleneck, Matt.

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  6. Chris Kwock

    I was really happy when they did the update! I only knew about it because my drive had froze (It wouldn’t accept any more photos and was stuck in the import from a previous import). The updated apparently fixed that issue. I did have the dreaded red blink of death for the drive. WD was quick to respond and sent me a replacement. Thankfully I didn’t have anything that I needed on the drive.

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  7. Thomas Horton

    $200 for 2TB. That’s a pretty good price for something you can use in the field.

    How is it powered and low long do the batteries last?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      see my comment to Joram above, battery life is good. I generally keep it powered off unless I am using it though. I have not turned it on and left it on until it died, could be an interesting test.

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  8. Joram J

    Thanks for this. And the FW, better late then never right. Btw, how is the battery life after a few months? Still happy with that?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Very happy with the battery life. I generally have the drive off unless I am using it, so I have never really had an issue with the battery life. I usually only charge the drive a couple of times a month, and thats only in busy months. I have gone 2-3 months without charging it at all when using the drive sparingly (and turning it off when not in use)

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  9. Brian McCue

    I too liked the updated review. I prefer reviews that put a product through the test of time & everyday use. Thanks

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  10. Rob Harris

    Thanks for the update about the update. I really like my drive for its convenience. But I, too, have been underwhelmed by its transfer performance. I know what I am doing tonight. Thanks for the heads up.

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